GROWING IN GOD'S GARDEN
LESSON FIVE - PRUNING THE GARDEN
Theme: The next six weeks will be spent on a farm, learning about growing in God's garden.
The Set: decorate the puppet stage like a barn. Add props like wheel barrows, shovels, rakes, a ride on toy tractor, etc. Workers can dress in bib overalls and straw hats.
Farmer Al Falfa (grumpy old farmer), Sprout (the farmers son), Sweet pea (the farmers daughter), Petunia (the farmers other daughter), leader, and a cast of farm animal puppets.
This week: We will discover that gardens needs to be pruned.
To teach the kids that:
Consistently enforcing the rules helps the service to run more smoothly. It is crucial to lovingly and consistently enforce the rules. Try to foresee problems so that they can be avoided before they occur. Work with your pod and interact with them before service and encourage them to pay close attention and really worship God today. Remember you are more than a teacher, you are a mentor!
Remind the kids of the rules. It helps the kids to respond if they know what is expected of them.
Begin by having the kids spend about 2 minutes kneeling at their chairs praying for the service.
Once the kids are done open in prayer asking for God's presence in our service. Kids need to know that God wants to move in their lives and that he will if they seek him. This time of prayer sets the tone of the remainder of the service.
It is important to review with the kids the reasons that we worship and explain the how's and whys. Encourage them to really worship God. The kids watch everything leaders do. Let them see you in active worship. Let them hear you worshiping God. If we want the spirit to move in our service we have to first allow the spirit to move in us.
The leader should introduce the kids to the theme.
Opening Skit: Leader: Good morning kids. Here we are at the farm again. And look there is farmer Al falfa. Oh no! He's gone off the deep end! He is destroying his beautiful garden! We've got to stop him.
Starts running over to farmer Al screaming STOP!! Don't do it.
Farmer Al (looking up from his pruning) What is all the ruckus about??? You are making enough noise to wake an elephant and start a stampede!! Will you please be quiet?!?!?
Leader: But Farmer Al, I am trying to stop you from destroying your garden. Life couldn't be that bad that you need to kill your plants.
Farmer: What in the world are you talking about? I'm not killing my plants. I'm just pruning them.
Leader: Oh farmer Al, you can't turn bean plants into prune plants.
Farmer: Where did they get you from?? Good grief! I am PRUNING my garden. That means I am taking off dead leaves, cutting off unwanted branches and helping the plants to grow the way I want them to.
Leader: Oh I understand. I think...
Farmer: Well, It's obvious that if I want to get rid of you again today that I need to explain pruning to you. Or maybe I should just be mean to you and then maybe you wouldn't keep coming back. I should have let you go pester farmer Jones a few weeks ago!
Leader: Oh come on Farmer Al. Please tell us about pruning. It sounds like this will have some good spiritual applications.
Farmer: Oh alright, I might as well tell you about it so I can get rid of you.
The farmer should come out with his pruning shears and tools and explain exactly what a gardener does when they prune their plants. He can talk about removing faded flowers. This allows the plant to use it's energy to produce more flowers. Pinching allows you to direct the growth of the plant either up or sideways. If you want a bushy plant you pinch off new buds at the top of the plant causing it to grow sideways instead. If you want it to grow taller you pinch off new buds at the side of the plant causing it to grow up instead. Sometimes a plant has dead leaves or branches. By cutting these off you help the plant to grow stronger and healthier. This is what pruning is all about.
PETUNIA, SWEET PEA, AND SPROUT SKIT
Sprout is chasing his sisters around with a very large pair of pruning shears (carefully). He is teasing them that they need to be pruned. The leader can intervene and tell them that people do need to be pruned but not with pruning shears. The leader can review what pruning shears are used for and then explain that people are pruned by God, not with shears but by God. He may allow things to happen to us or he may ask us to get rid of things in our lives. He will convict us, direct us and speak to us. He might ask us to do something we don't want to do. He does all of these things to shape us into what he wants us to be.
You will need a bonsai plant. Explain what a bonsai plant is. Ask the kids if they think it just grew this way on it's own. Explain that it took a great deal of time to get this plant to look like this. Any time the plant grew a shoot where it wasn't supposed to be the gardener had to snip it off. Any time the plant leaned in a direction it wasn't supposed to the gardener had to do something to make it lean the way he wanted it to. If the gardener had just left it to grow on it's own it would not have turned out to be a beautiful plant. It would have had branches sticking out everywhere and maybe be crooked. But the gardener had a plan for this plant. He knew exactly what he wanted it to look like. So he worked with it and melded it and shaped it. God does the same with us. He knows exactly what he wants to do with our lives. He knows what he wants us to be like. So he shapes us and prunes us and takes things out of our lives he doesn't want there and he guides us.
Tell the story of Saul when he was blinded. Give a short life account of how God shaped and melded Paul's life. Explain that bad things happened to Paul, but that God was using those things to shape him and mould him into who he wanted him to be.
Romans 8:28 All things work together for the good of those who love Him. For each team write each word of the memory verse on a leaf shape. Write some extra words that are not a part of the verse on several extra leaf shapes. Teach the kids the verse. Then play the following game. Each team lines up. The first player races to the front and grabs a leaf that belongs in the memory verse and places it on a tree shape poster board. The first team to complete the verse correctly scores the points.
Each pod leader will need a plant that has some dead leaves, or some unwanted shoots, or some form of pruning to be done to it. The pod leaders should review what has been presented and answer any questions. Then take your plant and begin showing how the plant is less than perfect. The gardener needs to work with it, pull off dead leaves, cut off shoots that are not growing right, etc. If the gardener doesn't do this the plant will not grow as it should. By spending time pruning it he makes it a more beautiful plant. Draw the parallel for the kids that God needs to do the same with us. He may need to convict us of certain things like spending too much time playing Nintendo or pull sin out of our lives. He may need to give us some direction and tell us to do certain things like being more bold about witnessing. Ask the kids if they think it would feel good to the plants to have their leaves pulled off or have shoots cut off. Sometimes the pruning that God does in our lives doesn't feel so good, but it makes us into better and stronger Christians. Encourage the kids to look at their plants. Are any of the leaves dead? Do they need to add a stake to help the plant grow in the right direction?
You will need some very rough rocks and some very smooth rocks. Show the rough rocks. It isn't' very pretty. I wouldn't want to use it as a decoration or carry it around in my pocket. It is all rough. Now show the smooth stones. These were rough at one time. But they got bumped around and knocked together, maybe the ocean waves washed over them...eventually from all the bumping and knocking they became smooth. People are a lot like these rough stones. Sometimes God allows us to get knocked around a bit. He may allow something to happen to us that we think is bad or hurts. These things happen to grown ups and kids. Your parents may get divorced, or your best friend might move away. We may wonder why God allows these things to happen to us. We may wonder why life feels so bumpy at times. The Bible tells us that God allows things to happen for our good. He has a reason for everything. God does these things to take off our rough edges and to make us better Christians. He may allow us to feel rejected so that we can understand how others feel and learn to be accepting. We may have a really hard teacher in school so that God can teach us persistence and not giving up. God is constantly working in our lives to make us like these smooth stones without rough edges. (If you can, bring enough small, smooth stones for each child to be able to take one home. You can encourage them to remember that when life seems bumpy and hard that God is shaping them and making them smooth.
God shapes us and mould us into what he wants us to be. Like a potter forms a pot and a gardener shapes a plant, God shapes our lives. Sometimes it might mean that God allows bad things to happen to us to teach us a lesson, or so that we can help others. Sometimes he punishes us for disobedience to him. Sometimes it doesn't feel good when God is shaping our lives but he does it for our good. Parents sometimes have to punish their children for disobedience, sometimes they have to prevent us from doing something we want to do to protect us, etc. They do all these things because they love us. God prunes us because he loves us!
Let's spend some time worshiping God and asking him to make us into what he wants us to be.
Copyright 1998, Sheryl Coats